Who knew that a spray-on deodorant would be able to bring love and peace to international war regions? It can easily be said that from the very first scene, the Axe Peace Super Bowl commercial feels like nothing the brand has previously produced or even promoted. Personally, I found the commercial’s gendered and racialized protrusions concerning the topic of war and peace to be concerning and alarming.
In this particular commercial, there is a toned-down piano track that bolsters the aspects of war and oppressive regimes. Furthermore, there is evidence of allusions to North Korea, the Middle East, World War II, and the Vietnam War. The commercial presents forth a character resembling Kim Jong-un (supreme leader of North Korea) overlooking a crowd in what seems to be Tiananmen Square, an Iranian man having what is assumed to a bomb handcuffed to his wrist, a young soldier gripping his machine gun, and a tank patrolling a destroyed city. Everything seems extremely depressing and isolated, up until a wife or girlfriend romantically approaches each of the men.
The Axe Peace advertisement attempts to make the product attractive to the macho man by referring to war, which is considered which is linked to masculinity (Hutchings 2007). It attempts to build a masculine consumer base by offering an elusive twist to masculinity by showing that men would choose love.
I find that the advertisement is irrefutably racist in its representation of individuals living within these war regions. This is evident as the commercial portrays a threatening and dangerous image of individuals living within the Middle East and Asia. With the advertisements undisputable endeavor to display the briefcase as a nuclear detonator in the hands of a Middle Easterner, or a North Korean society prepared for war, it demonstrates ignorance and typically, less respect for the individuals living their daily lives within these portrayed regions.
Furthermore, the Axe Peace commercial is highly inappropriate in regards to stereotypes. For example, there is a scene in the advertisement where a beautifully dressed Vietnamese woman can be depicted during the Vietnam War. She watches defenselessly as an armed American soldier descends from a helicopter, strolls towards her, embraces and kisses her. This plays into the stereotype of a submissive, powerless, and beautiful Asian woman. Additionally, it also plays into the American dogma that women are gratifying towards the men who are contemplated to be the hero that risked his life for her or for a country. However, such portrayals neglect to address the number of rape of Vietnamese women by American soldiers that once happened.
Moreover, additional stereotypical references made during the advertisement would be the North Korean man and the Iranian man being depicted as threatening. The North Korean man, illustrated as Kim Jong-un, is seen at the scene signifying the Tiananmen Square massacre and the Iranian man is seen with a suspicious briefcase. These individuals and these scenes may possibly refer to the terrors that preceding leaders of these respective ethnicities have committed.
Representation of North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un.
Representation of former Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Not only is the advertisement denoted to be racist, but it is also highly gendered in its portrayal. In the scenes presented throughout this advertisement, there is evidence of gendered roles. The heterosexual men epitomized are enlisted into positions of power, allowing them to commence or stop war when they please. They hold authoritative positions of the aggressor, soldiers, hero, tyrants, President, or Dictator. The male gender stereotype presented throughout the Axe commercial seems to present the sense that a man’s role in society is not one of a submissive role. However, on the contrary, the females within this commercial evidently fit the part of a submissive individual in need of protection and rescue.
Gender roles for females within this commercial emphasize aggressive and repressive stereotypes that position a female into a powerless and voiceless role. Indeed this commercial shows hierarchy of the genders as the males are in position of power and authority. However, there seems to be a hierarchy arrangement within the female gender. For example, the only voice that seems to be heard throughout the entire advertisement is from a white female, who grimacingly utters the name of her tank-driving male lover, “Mikhail.” Quite the reverse, the women of another race (i.e. Middle Eastern or Asian) seem to be seen as the silent companion.
Understandably, armed forces are an important source of the rules that define proper behaviour for women and men as heterosexual (Aulette and Witner 384). Furthermore, Aulette and Wittner 2012 also state that women are recognized as instrumental in preventing and stopping armed conflict and in building peace (386). Thus, in terms of the constructed gender role of females within this Axe commercial, it becomes evident that the females are depicted as objects of male affection. However, in my opinion, the Axe brand seems to portray that with a spray of the deodorant, the male can control any woman’s emotions of love and affection. Thus, I would typically state that the advertisements that Axe produces, as a whole, tend to illustrate women to be head-over-heels for the male’s affection.
Aulette R. Judy and Judith Wittner. 2012. Gender Worlds. 2nd ed. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.
Hutchings, Kimberly. 2007. Making Sense of Masculinity and War. Sage Journals, Men and Masculinities 10: 389-404.